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ICU nurse on rising COVID deaths in Broward: ‘It’s very difficult; it’s very exhausting’

Memorial Healthcare System: Majority of COVID-19 patients are younger than 65 and unvaccinated

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Warworn nurses want the unvaccinated and the opponents of face masks to reconsider their positions, as younger COVID-19 patients die in Broward County.

The more infectious Delta variant is leading to increased transmissibility, even in a few vaccinated individuals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the fully vaccinated with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus, but it appears to spread for a shorter time.

Hospitalizations have been higher among the unvaccinated. For Lotta Siegel, the director of nursing of critical care and cardiovascular institute at Memorial Hospital West, dealing with Broward County’s ongoing surge in hospitalizations felt like riding a terrifying rollercoaster.

“When we were in June, we celebrated that we had no COVID ICU patients on a Friday — and it was the first time during the entire pandemic that we had none — and then July 4th hit,” Siegel said on Monday.

By mid-August, the Memorial Healthcare System hit a peak with 738 COVID patients. The majority of the COVID-19 patients at MHS didn’t have the protection of any of the three COVID vaccines available for free in the U.S.

During the week of Aug. 19, Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines had 63 inpatient ICU beds occupied, Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood had 110 occupied, the hospital Miramar had 33, and the hospital in Pembroke had 24, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of the new Memorial Healthcare System COVID patients have been much younger during this recent surge in cases. From July 1 to Aug. 26, nearly 70% of them were 18 to 65 years old.

MHS (MHS)

“Before July, we had seen a reduction in COVID deaths and since July that has gone up each week,” Siegel said. “It is very difficult. It is very exhausting.”

The COVID vaccine remains the best weapon against COVID and misinformation is contributing to the tragedy. She said patients in their death beds have been skeptical about their prognosis.

“Disbelief: ‘Nobody dies from COVID!’ I get that a lot,” Siegel said.

Memorial Healthcare System reported 13 COVID patients died in June, 106 in July and so far this month 121.

Siegel said some of the most difficult calls have been when she has had to notify grandparents that they have outlived their adult children.

“They are watching their grandchildren and we just broke them the news that that child’s parent has not made it,” Siegel said, adding, “We just want people to survive, unfortunately, this pandemic does have a grim outcome at times of complete finality and death.”

According to the CDC, the Aug. 23-29 COVID positivity rate in Broward County was 17.25%, so transmissibility remains high. The CDC’s official COVID death toll in Florida nears 45,000, including more than 3,000 in Broward.

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About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.